Women Trading Up Support Program: How to have a difficult conversation?

Second Year Apprentice/Trainee

Module 02: How to have a difficult conversation?

As you progress through your career you may find yourself in circumstances where you may need to have a difficult or emotional conversation at work.

Whether it be bringing up personal issues or perhaps reporting incidents or inappropriate workplace behaviour. In the moment it may feel a little more comfortable to avoids these conversations with your employer with the hope that eventually things will smooth over. Having difficult conversations however is not only vital to maintaining a healthy, fun and enjoyable workplace but also a great skill to have in your toolbelt.

So let’s break it down – How do you actually have these conversations?

Usually, the best place to start is having a chat with your direct manager or supervisor as they tend to know you best and are also equipped with how to help address or respond to the issue or concerns you may be raising. Sometime this may mean they also further direct your concerns to the next manager in line or HR team if your workplace has one.  If the issue is in relation to your manager/supervisor try talking to a manager in a different department or going direct to the next manager in line.

It’s also important your place and timing of the conversation is professional and appropriate – try not to bail up the person unexpectedly or in a public place at work. As this may result in the issue being dismissed or not being fully addressed because of the lack of time and quiet often should not be spoken about around other colleagues.

We also recommend that you raise these concerns in person rather than flicking a lengthy text or email – as more than often the tone and emotion can be misinterpreted and can sometimes lead to you feeling unsatisfied.

So how do you do that? Send an email or have a quick conversation with your manager requesting some time that suits you both to have a chat.

For example

Hi XX, I was wondering if we can arrange some time this week to discuss an incident that occurred on site this week?

Preparing for the Conversation

The lead up to the conversation can sometimes feel like the hardest part. You may find yourself mulling over what you’re going to say or how you’re going to say it. There may be times where you feel like you’d rather forget it and cancel the meeting.

If this is how you are feeling perhaps you may find it helpful to talk it out or practice your conversation with a family member or friend. You can also call our mentoring team on 1300 363 831 who can provide you free and confidential advice on your situation and help you prepare for the conversation.

You may even find it helpful to write a list of all the things you wish to bring up and take it into the meeting to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Here are some tips to ensure you get the most out of it:

Focus on the problem

Try and stick to the facts and avoid bringing emotion into the matter by focusing on expressing how the problem effects your work.

Communicate where you wish things to go or how you would like them to be addressed.

Although it may not always go the way you anticipate it is important all parties communicate to set clear expectations

Agree on an action

Try not to finish the conversation without understanding what happens next – is your manager going to do something or have they asked you? Make sure this is clear.

Follow up

Send a follow up email to your manager, thanking them for their time, summarising what was addressed and what you believe is happening next. This ensures everything is recorded.

Additional Resources

Need a helping hand? Our mentoring team are here for you.

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